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Full text of "Linguistic Survey Of India Vol Ii Mon Khmer Siamese Chinese Families"

GENERAL INTRODUCTION,                                                    63
began to take Hindu officials the court language at first continued to be Ahom, but it
was gradually supplanted by Assamese, and now Ahom is known by only a few priests,1
The following account of the Khamtis is based on the kte Mr. B. Stack's note 0ft
pages 84 and ff. of the Census Eeport of Assam for 1881, on Mr. Ghitss note on page 28S
of the similar report for 1891, and on Captain P. E. Gurdon's article On the Ehdmfa, h
Volume xxvii(1895) of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Societys pages 157 and ff.
The Ehamtls were originally a North Shan tribe whose head-quarters appear to hare
been round Mung Kang (Mogaung) in Upper Burma,   Miiag King was the last of the
Northern Shan States (commonly called the kingdom of Pong) to maintain a condition of
semi-independence, and was finally conquered by the Burmese King Alomphra ia the
middle of the eighteenth century.   After the capture of Mung K&ng a number of Khamtis
migrated north., and settled in a valley high up the Irrawaddy in latitude 27° and 28° northj
eastwards of the frontier of Lakhimpur,   This country was known to the Assamese as
Bor Khamti or Great Khamtl Land.   Captain Wilcox visited it in 1S26? and found the
Khamtis living in the midst of an alien population, the descendants of races whom their
ancestors had subjugated.   Their kinsmen, the JLhoxos, had long been settled in Eastern
Assam, .aid u'ltve them permission to establish themselves on the Tengapanl River*
Before long fchey rose against the Ahom king, and ejected the Governor of Sadiya, the
Khamti chief taking Ms place,   Being unable to oust him, the xlhorns recognised the
latter as governing on their behalf.   This occurred early in the nineteenth century.
During his rule tho Khamtis reduced the local Assamese to slavery, and it is probably
owing t»« the discontent caused by our releasing these slaves that they rebelled in 1889
A.I),   They succeeded in surprising the Sadiya garrison, and in murdering Colonel White,
who was in command there, but were eventually defeated and scattered about the
country.   During the following year many of them returned to their former home in.
Bor Khfmti, while the remainder were divided into four parties and settled in different
parts of the Lakhimpur District.   In 1850 a fresh • colony, numbering three to four
hundred people, came and settled in Assam.   In 1891, the total number of Khamtis in
the Province was 3,040.   They are Buddhists, and are far more civilised than most of the
11 am indebted to Mr. Gait for the following details regarding the ousting of the Ahom language by Assamese.
Biahmans began to obtain office at the Ahom court, chiefly as Jcata&isQt envoys, early ia tbe seventeenth century, but Ahom
•was still the means of communication between the king and his ministers At tbe time of tbe Muhammadan invasion m 1862
the Ahoma would still aocept food froir persons of any caste, and would eat all kinds of flesh, except that of human beings,
whether of animals that had been killed or that bad died & natural death.' Gadadhar Singh (1681-96) was a friend ol tbe
§ftkta Hindus, and persecuted Vaiahnavas who had then spread over the land. We have seen how Budia Singh (1696-1714)
sent for a Hindu piieet, and how his son and successor, Sib Singh, formally adopted Hinduism. During this king's reign
Hinduism became the dominant religion, and the Ahoras wlio did not accept it were looked upon as & degraded okss. Th&
influence of the Deodbais, or priests o! tbe old Ahom religion, mired for a tame about 1775. Similarly* Assamese, as a
language, began to oust A"hom about the beginning of the eighteenth century, and f torn about 1720 it was no longer necessary
for Hindu omoe-seekess to learn the latter language. It probably remained, the spoken language of the Ahoms themselves
until towards the end of the eighteenth century, and oE the Deodhais for about fifty years longer. Even among the latter*
it baa been a dead language for over fifty years, and the number who still retain a decent knowledge of,it is extremely limited,
being barely » dozen all told.
Thtj completeness with which the Ahom language was ousted is remarkable. Therfi are now barely fifty words ia com.
mon use which can b« traced to an Ahom origin. The reason probably ia that the Ihom people always foimed & very small
proportion of the population of the Assam Valley, and that, as their rule expanded and other tribes were brought under their
control, it was necessary to have some Ungua franca. The choice lay between Ahom and Assamese. The latter, beiog &n Aryan
language, had the greater vitality, and the influence of the Hiudu piieata was also strongly in its favour. The latter doa®
woild probably not have sufficed Ia Mftnipurs',where there was no mdigenou popuktiop speaking an Aryan language, tlia
people became enthasi&stie Hindus without giving up their native language, altuoogh that language, unlike AhomjWas
unwritten, and a character in ivhiuh to write it bad to be invented by the